All of the film's potential is exploited in the first 5 minutes when Nick Nolte and his gang of cops grab a Chicago gangster from a swank restaurant, drop him off a cliff, and then meet him at the bottom where Nolte quips, "This isn't America. This is L.A." Damn! That's what the movie should have been about! Instead, the script is quickly derailed by a silly military conspiracy and flashback upon flashback.
I read some negative reviews, so I went in with lowered expectations, and ended up enjoying it quite a lot. The ending might be a little silly, but the characters were great. Nolte is a great big bull in this one, charging headfirst, Chazz is the comic relief, and Madsen and Penn are great supporting actors.
Not as meticulously crafted as Chinatown or L. A. Confidential, but generally an entertaining neo-noir. Possibly even slightly underrated. The choice of music is a smart one, because it really transports the viewer into the right era. Usually I don't like political or military conspiracies in my noir, but here the plot didn't bother me that much. Griffith is strikingly good and understated as the suffering wife.
This was really good. Not quite 'Chinatown' level good, but very good nonetheless. Nick Nolte is great as the corrupt, tragic hero. I thought it was interesting how the film makes the analogy between the personal corruption of Nolte's character and the corruption in the highest levels of military and government. The whole system is rigged. If you're not vigilant it will corrupt you too.